Twisted mystery among top selections this week

Other picks include the humorous 'In the Land of Second Chances'

Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2005

No one is quite who they seem in ("good morning, darkness") - not beautiful (and maybe dead) laura; not her Foyfriend scott ... not even reggie, the police officer.

There's plenty of new fiction available this week at the Juneau Public Libraries:

"Good Morning, Darkness," by Ruth Francisco. No one is quite who they seem in this twisted and twisty mystery - not beautiful (and maybe dead) Laura; not her boyfriend Scott (who might be the innocent real estate broker he seems); not even Reggie, the police officer who taught Laura martial arts and whose interest in investigating the woman's arms that have washed up on the beach goes beyond the scope of his job. Do the arms belong to Laura? Or is she really visiting relatives back East after declining Scott's marriage proposal? Reggie's obsessive investigation puts his job and marriage at risk before the mystery is solved.

"In the Land of Second Chances," by George Shaffner. The town of Ebb, true to its name, is slipping away, visited by sickness and tornados, and abandoned by high school graduates who move away and never look back. As the town dwindles, Wilma Porter, the owner of the only B & B in Ebb, is surprised to find she has a new guest, a traveling salesman. Who's going to buy anything in Ebb? But Vernon L. Moore is probably not precisely a salesman, and his wares are more like second chances and hope than the games of chance he claims to sell. And by the time he leaves Ebb, it has changed into a town of good will and optimism in this humorous and spiritual novel.

"Budapest," by Chico Buarque. Returning from an Anonymous Writers' Convention in Istanbul, ghostwriter Jose Costa makes an unplanned stop in Budapest, where he first hears the Hungarian language and is enchanted. Back home in Brazil, restless and dreaming of Hungary, he abruptly pulls up stakes, leaving his wife and young son for Budapest, where he meets Kriska, who tutors him with sadistic creativity in the language. Black humor abounds. You'll be left shaking your head over this brisk and enjoyable read.

"Singing Bird," by Roisin McAuley. When Lena gets an unexpected phone call from Ireland, where her adopted daughter, Mary, was born, she leaps in with both feet to try to track down Mary's birth parents. An adoptee herself, Lena knows firsthand what it is like to have a hole in her life, but she is unprepared for the revelations that her investigations bring. Her Catholic faith is challenged, as is her sense of morality and family, before she finally learns the truth in this suspenseful and moving debut novel.

"Torture the Artist," by Joey Goebel. At the age of 6, Vincent Spinetti is enrolled in a special school, the New Renaissance, which specializes in the creative arts. By 7, he is declared a genius and singled out for special mentoring, and by the time he's a young adult, he's a wealthy young man. All thanks to his mentor, Harlan, a man who is under contract to continually mess up Vincent's life, stirring the pot every time things start looking up, under the theory that the best art comes from pain. But torturing Vincent tortures Harlan, too, and in the end, only the artist ends up happy.

"The Vagabonds," by Nicholas Delbanco. In 1916, a group of men that included Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone took a vacation, wandering through the countryside, camping and having a "men's outing." But the actions of one of the group's members leads to the creation of a trust fund financed by the captains of industry. In 2003, when Alice Saperstone dies, her grieving children are surprised to find that she has left them quite an inheritance: valuable GE stock that was purchased in the early 1900s. As Claire, Joanna and David come to terms with the money and the means of its arrival in the siblings' lives, they work to unravel the unknown story that is their legacy.

"The Good Man," by Edward Jae-Suk Lee. This complex and brooding novel tells of an aging soldier's search for peace. Gabriel Guttman is a Korean War veteran haunted by his participation in a My Lai-like massacre, and his years spent battling his memories have left him with large portions of his memory wiped out. After making his way back to the Montana ranch on which he grew up, he meets up with the woman he brought back from Korea. Gradually, as he lives with the woman and her daughter, his flashbacks of the war merge with his current life, and he begins to heal.

• As always, placing a hold on our material is easy: Call the Juneau Public Libraries at 586-5249, or, if you have Internet access, your library card, and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our Web site ( and looking at our catalog. Placing holds on items featured in this column is now even easier! The new columns are hyperlinked to the catalog: Simply look up the column on our Web site, click on the title you want, and you will be ready to place a hold.

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